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Chapter Seven LITERARY LIFE
I. A DISTINCTION
THE Chinese make a distinction between literature that instructs and literature that pleases, or literature that is "the vehicle of truth" and literature that is "the expression of emotion." The distinction is easy to see: the former is objective and expository, while the latter is subjective and lyrical. They all pretend that the former is of greater value than the latter, because it improves the people's minds and uplifts society's morak. From this point of view, they look down upon novels and dramas as "little arts, unworthy to enter the Hall of Great Literature." The only exception is poetry, which they not only do not despise but cultivate and honour more intensively and generally than in the West. As a matter of fact, all of them read novels and dramas on the sly, and the official who writes only of benevolence and righteousness in his essays will be found, in private conversations, to be quite familiar with the heroes and heroines ofChinp'inmei (Gdd-Vase-Plum], the pornographic novel par excellence, or of P^inhua Paochien, an equally pornographic homosexual novel.
The reason for this is not far to seek. The "literature that instructs" is on* the whole of such low, second-rate quality, so full of moral platitudes and naive reasoning, and the scope of ideas is so hemmed in by the fear of heresy, that the only Chinese literature that is readable is literature in the Western sense, including the novels, dramas and poetry, £.£., literature of the imagination rather than literature of ideas. Scholars who were not economists wrote about taxation, literary men who did not know how to handle a sickle wrote about agriculture, and politicians who were not engineers wrote about "A Plan for Huangho Conservancy" (an extremely popular topic}/ P 203